When you double in size, it's vital to set clear expectations. Here's how we did it at Ten Forward.
The number of employees at Ten Forward almost doubled in a 9-month period.
This growth has necessitated some big changes in the company, especially in terms of how we set and share employee expectations and responsibilities. For the first few years, Ten Forward had essentially one senior developer and a passel of junior developers, and we were small enough that trajectories and responsibilities were highly individual.
As we've leveled up those initial juniors and on-boarded more (and added interns and apprentices!), it became apparent that something was missing: if you weren't a junior but weren't yet a senior, what were you? What kind of compensation could you expect? How could you continue to level up to senior? What about the trajectory path for non-coders?
As a teaching company, we believe strongly in empowering our employees to build the kind of career they want. In order to do this, we needed clear documentation of available ranks and titles (and detailed descriptions of the responsibilities and privileges that accompany each).
So we made it!
This documents four different ranks that apply to all employees, regardless of area (ie: developers, project managers, designers, QA analysts, etc.). The linked version above is our generic version, created for a few folks who asked for a copy to share with their own companies.
Here's a breakdown of what we included and why.
First, we picked six main categories of responsibilities that are shared across all ranks:
- Skill Competency
- Learning & Growth
We then wrote a concise paragraph explaining why we value that responsibility, and what it broadly entails. For example, we describe "Influence" in this way:
Creating inevitable success requires understanding the definition of success. One person can only do so much, but by exerting influence you can amplify your own success and the success of others around you. Focus on creating a positive impact through consistent, professional, and empathetic interactions with everyone you encounter.
These six responsibilities are the focus areas that we determined to be the most important at Ten Forward, but different companies will likely have different values and core responsibilities.
Next up is privileges. Ten Forward has two primary categories of privileges that expand alongside an employee's responsibilities: flexibility and compensation.
Flexibility is a two-way street. The more independence you demonstrate, the more flexible we can be with things like equipment, working hours, and other work arrangements. In return, we expect you to be enthusiastic about adapting to changing conditions in projects, workflows, and processes in order to improve. As you mature, you will increasingly gain both privileges and responsibilities that require you to and reward you for acting independently.
Base salary is the beginning of negotiations, not the end. We value individuals, and we are prepared to and have a history of defining compensation packages that work for our employees. We don’t have to wait until an arbitrary “annual review” but are open to adjusting compensation as often as needed so it’s a fair representation of your responsibility level, performance track record and not a distraction from your day-to-day work.
Lastly, we list each of the four current ranks, and then detail the specific expectations for each rank when it comes to the six responsibility categories, as well as the two privilege categories.
Since we're all about that Star Trek life, our ranks are as follows:
- Ensign (junior)
- Lieutenant (staff / associate)
- Commander (senior)
- Captain (principal)
For each ranking, we give a range of years' experience that generally correlates, though it's a guide, not a rule.
We then list each of the six responsibility categories and give both a one-sentence description, ie: "I am competent in one set of programming language(s) and tools, or 'stack.'", plus multiple evidence examples that span job types. This makes it clear not only what we expect, but also provides an outline for employees to use when seeking a raise or promotion.
Lastly, we detail what flexibility and compensation employees can expect at that particular rank.
Clear expectations - thoroughly documented - are vital for empowered employees.
But they also aid in everything from writing job descriptions to budget planning to combating racial and gendered wage gaps (go transparency!). New employees know what their responsibilities are and can fully exercise their privileges, and it's clear to all how to progress at the company.
Cheers to that!